Here's an inside look at downtown Des Moines' newest restaurant and patio
Construction crews are working hard to hit the hotel's March 21 opening date.
Des Moines has a new aptly named dining venue, and it's perched next to a park with views of the colorful American Enterprise Art Park and the downtown skyline beyond. Fittingly, it's located on Park Street.
Park Street Kitchen and Bar is the newest restaurant to join the downtown area that includes almost 60 other eateries. Located just off the entrance of the new 330-room, $101 million Hilton Downtown Des Moines, its approachable menu is full of locally sourced dishes that pay homage to Iowa's favorite foods with a touch of elevation.
Sleek and elegant, the dining room boasts ultra-modern decorative elements like lilypad light fixtures, flickering fireplaces and a scenic patio for alfresco dining. Seating is plush and comfortable with plenty of personal space. The bar spills out into the lively lobby, making for a quiet dining environment.
Park Street is headed up by Nick Marino, 37, a Hyde Park Culinary Institute of America graduate who hails from Paterson, New Jersey. Marino worked his way up in country clubs and high-volume restaurants including the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago, where he was executive chef. (It took the No. 1 spot in the country in Conde Nast's 2015 Reader's Choice Awards.)
Passing the time until Park Street was ready for him to take the reins, Marino has been running the Compass Group corporate café at the Wells Fargo building.
Moving to Des Moines was an easy decision for Marino, who spent over $4,000 on food and drinks during his last month in Chicago.
"My wife and I decided we wanted to have kids, and Chicago was kind of a tough spot for that," he said.
Marino's wife, Jessica, is from Pella and the two now have a 9-month-old son. They moved to Des Moines about 18 months ago.
"I like that it's such a small city," Marino said of Des Moines, "but it's getting more of a big-city feel. The culinary scene is growing rapidly; people are trying new things."
The Marinos currently reside in the Ingersoll neighborhood. "You can often find me at the Cheese Bar," Marino said. "Everything that's right in the world is there."
It's nothing for this well-seasoned chef to feed 1,500 people a day. In fact, he catered the Tournament Players Club, a golf championship, doing $1 million in food sales in one weekend, including nine buffets — three per day. And Marino is in charge of the food for the Hilton Downtown restaurant, banquets, room service and catering.
The Hilton has given Marino plenty of creative license for Park Street's starting menu. He took a look at what restaurants and chefs are doing both locally and throughout the Hilton properties and applied that inspiration to Park Street's menu while adhering to the Hilton's standards as a brand.
"Seasonality plays a huge role in it and we're lucky enough to be into spring, so right now, you'll see I have a 'spring' focus," Marino said.
That seasonality is expressed in its opening menu with timely spring elements such as English peas, spring onions, asparagus and pea tendrils with Iowa ingredients like eggs, honey and butter.
At the same time, Park Street gives diners options for three meals a day. For breakfast, guests have a choice of a continental buffet or a full breakfast.
The full breakfast includes scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast potatoes and seasonal specialties on top of a selection of fruit, hot and cold cereals, breakfast pastries and breads, homemade granola, tea, juice and coffee.
There's even an a la carte menu that includes omelets, açaí bowls and braised short rib hash.
Lunch is a labor of love for Marino. That means bringing in what Iowans love, like giant crispy pork tenderloin sandwiches made from Berkwood Farms pork served on a sesame bun with lettuce, tomato, whole grain mustard and house-made pickles.
"We want to make things you can't create at home," Marino said. "Yes, we have a turkey club on the menu, but we brine the turkey for three days and then we roast the turkey. We try to take everything to the next level by putting as much love into it as we can."
For dinner, the menu emits a more refined character with a list of refreshing salads, wood-fired flatbreads and shareable apps like house-smoked salmon toast with mascarpone, dill pollen, trout roe, smoked yolks and capers.
Fried risotto with wild mushrooms, Taleggio cheese, caramelized shallots and a spring salad makes for richer fare.
Main plates showcase Iowa ingredients in their various components, like Faroe Island salmon with a charred spring onion and honey butter with a spring vegetable slaw and toasted freekeh; Short Rib "Shepherd's Pie" with carrots, sweet onion, peas and truffled Yukon gold potatoes; and roasted porchetta with crispy rosemary fingerlings, broccoli rabe and natural jus all showcase local ingredients.
With 14,000 square feet of banquet space, dining events at the Hilton can range from 600 for a sit-down dinner to 1,000 for buffet-style.
"I've been lucky enough to find people who absorb what we are doing and they care just as much," Marino said. "They understand why we take all these steps. They get pumped."
Park Street Kitchen and Bar
Location: 435 Park St., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.